Trump advisers talk of mandated national service – Daily Freeman

Don’t be nervous, young people, but there is talk again in Washington about a national service mandate.

Such conversations have been particularly powerful among Donald Trump’s top advisers as he begins what he hopes will be his transition back to the White House. Of course, talking about a national service mandate is just one step away from that dreaded term: the draft.

But before any of my younger readers run off to pack for Canada, relax, at least for now. It would take an act of Congress to bring back the draft, and we are a long way from that. But no matter how crazy our national politics can be these days, it pays to be prepared for anything.

As The Washington Post reported this week, Christopher Miller, who led the Pentagon during the final tumultuous days of Donald Trump’s presidency, believes a national service requirement should be “strongly considered.” He laid out his vision for military and civilian preparedness as part of Project 2025, the conservative Heritage Foundation’s latest book of federal policy recommendations that they have been publishing for presumptive Republican presidential candidates since Ronald Reagan.

Miller, a retired Green Beret, has been among the most vocal about mandating national service and taking other steps to improve military readiness. He sees a “crisis” for our all-volunteer military. Although Trump did not formally endorse this latest Heritage strategy document, he eagerly embraced the organization’s proposals during his first term.

At a time when only 1% of the country’s population serves in the armed forces, the major challenge in preparedness remains recruitment, according to the Post. The Pentagon fell short of its recruitment goal last year by about 41,000 people, the Post reports. Only the Marines and Space Force achieved their objectives.

In one surprising explanation for the shortage, the Army cited internal data showing that some 71% of Americans are ineligible for military service due to factors including obesity, drug use and predisposition.

Yet, as one of the last conscripts during the Vietnam War, I know that Washington and the Pentagon do not want to return to the days of the draft, except as a very last resort. In addition to the issues of physical readiness, there are moral issues associated with soldiers not wanting to be there. Any commander, as I learned firsthand, would rather lead a platoon of willing recruits than resentful and reluctant conscripts.

And the political impact at home can be a very real headache for local politicians, as I learned from some Vietnam-era voters of Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley. No politician wants to deal with the pain of his constituents’ sons and daughters who come home in body bags from a war that almost no one understands.

Among Miller’s recommendations is that he would like to see the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, implemented in every high school. It is a multi-skill exam that helps predict future academic and career success in the military. More than a million military applicants take it every year.

I can also speak from personal experience about the personal value of the military experience. Beyond the physical fitness – which for me has faded over time – I remain impressed and inspired by the level of personal sacrifice my fellow troops were willing to make without even thinking about it.

The design ended for the Americans in 1973, two years before the war ended, after Congress stopped funding it. No one seems to have been in a hurry to bring it back since.

Still, there are some enthusiastic MAGA Republicans who suggest a draft could strengthen a seemingly spoiled generation of video game softies. Maybe so, but let’s not push our luck. We’re better off with an all-volunteer army.

The irony of a possible return of President Trump took an ironic twist with the recent 80th anniversary of the D-Day landing. It brought back memories of how Trump’s role as commander in chief was at times compromised by his frequent deferrals from military service during the Vietnam era thanks to questionable medical claims. The controversy prompted Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois – who lost both legs in the battle – to rename Trump “Cadet Bone Spurs.”

Somehow, despite the pleas of those on the right concerned about the state of our military, I don’t think Trump would endorse something as politically unpopular as a return of the draft. But he’s not the most predictable candidate.

Clarence Page is syndicated by Tribune Content Agency. Readers can write to him via email at [email protected].